🔴The court asked why shots to boost waning immune response were not being made available in India when other countries such as the United States and those in Europe were permitting and encouraging such inoculation.
The Delhi High Court on Thursday said the decision on administering booster doses of the Covid-19 vaccine should not be based on economics, and directed the Centre to apprise the court of its stand on this issue.
The court asked why shots to boost waning immune response were not being made available in India when other countries such as the United States and those in Europe were permitting and encouraging such inoculation. It asked the Centre to submit a timeline of the proposed rollout of booster doses, if a booster was considered necessary.
The division bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh took note of conflicting media reports and medical opinions on the need and effectiveness of boosters. It noted that experts in India were of the view that there is as yet no medical evidence to support the administering of these shots.
“The decision should not be based on economics because no doubt it is an expensive proposition and the government is doing it free for most and not many people are having to pay for it. Maybe that is the consideration that the government does not want to give this at this stage, but then we don’t want to land in a situation that we are overly conservative on this, and we land up in a situation like we were in the second wave. We will actually lose the advantage of this vaccination,” the bench said while hearing a matter in which it has been monitoring Delhi’s Covid-19 situation.
Many people, especially those who are old and suffering from other diseases, are anxious to know if they would require a booster, and when it would be permitted, the court said. “There are also reports that a large number of vaccine doses are lying unused whose shelf life would expire in some time to come,” it said.
The court also referred to the ongoing debate on the question of vaccinating children. “The other aspect is with regard to the vaccination below the age of 18 years,” it said.
Many developed countries have vaccinated their children and younger population against the virus. With schools across the country returning to in-person classes, there is concern that children might trigger a new wave of infections.
Earlier in the hearing, Justice Sanghi had mentioned concerns expressed by a section of the medical community that the country may face another “onslaught” if boosters were not administered. “If you don’t give booster now, jo kiya hai sab pe paani phir jayega,” he said, quoting a doctor. “It needs to be looked into. How is it that the western world is encouraging boosters, getting boosters, and we are not even permitting those who voluntarily want to take it?” he said.
AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria had said on Tuesday that booster shots were not needed in India immediately, and that the possibility of a “huge third wave” is “declining each passing day”. The court made a mention of Dr Guleria’s statement on Thursday.
ICMR chief Dr Balram Bhargava too has said there is no scientific evidence so far to establish that a booster dose is needed for further protection against Covid-19.
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